Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bye, Bye, Sugar

We were watching "Top Chef" last week and one of the guys made a cucumber mojito.  Y'all know that I am not a drinker at all but I was washing dishes one night and suddenly a cucumber mojito sounded really appealing to me.  I've had a grand total of two 'regular' mojitos in my life, both when we were in Puerto Rico a couple of years ago, so Rich  had a little bit of a puzzled look on his face when I turned from the sink and said, "hey, you know what sounds good?"   We must have been pretty bored that night because we made a special trip to the grocery store and the liquor store to get the ingredients.   Here you see his extra special cucumber/fresh ginger mojito, which was crisp and clean and very tasty.   

Rich has been taking photos of some of the desserts they've been making at the hotel.  These are from Wednesday night's Seafood Buffet.    Here we have a lemon-blueberry meringue shot, a layered pistachio-lime custard and coconut tapioca mini parfait, and a macaroon crust tart with banana brulee.

Cheesecake, caramel, chocolate mousse verrines.

A mouth-watering enticement.

Man, I love this stuff.   Since joining the Unalaska Biggest Winner Challenge,  I have to admit that I have not yet tried all that hard to get myself motivated.  I was checking the local blogs tonight and read with some dismay that Melanie and Alena are doing without sugar of any kind for 30 days.   Oh. my. gosh.   Sugar, especially white sugar, is oh-so-unhealthy for us, I know.   Sometimes I don't really care if I have it; I drink my iced tea "straight up" with just lemon; Rich and I have gone for months without eating many sweets at all.  But lately I seem to be back on a dessert kick--I blame it on vacation (which ended a month ago).  So, okay, gals, I accept the challenge you have thrown down.   There's that little devil sitting on my shoulder whispering "there's no way you can maintain for 30 days," so we'll see who wins this battle of the wills. Wish me luck.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Polar Bear Run (or Walk for some of us)

What a gorgeous day for the Polar Bear Run/Walk!   I've volunteered to help in the past and there have been years when the snow and wind were blowing like crazy and we just couldn't wait to get inside!   Today it was cold but sunny and a perfect day for a walk outside.  I'm not a runner so was happy that Melanie and Lauri wanted to walk.   There were actually quite a few walkers and I heard that a total of 71 people had signed up, which is big!   (I promised Lauri I would note that we are all wearing layers of clothes so we are actually MUCH smaller than we appear.  LOL)
Anne and I taking photos of each other while Matt waits for the race to begin.

Some of the entrants.   We always have a bunch of kids take part.

Danrick--it's a little cold with just shorts and a tshirt on!

Looking back toward town.   Our route took us from Tutiakoff Park to the landfill and back, for a total of 5K.   

Melanie and I were enjoying our stroll back when these kids swooshed right past us.

Approaching the finish line

We did it, and earned our Polar Bear Run hoodies!  Rich got off work in time to document our finish.   

Tonight is book club so I need to get a few things done before I go.   Hope everyone had a good weekend!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Girls Night Out and The Death Penalty Question

Work has been very hectic and busy lately.   A couple of weeks ago, after a particularly stressful day,  my coworker Judi suggested we find a night that we could all go out for sushi.  The conversation devolved into silliness and laughter as we contemplated ordering several "bitchin' rolls" to match our moods.  With too much going on, we didn't make it out till last night, a bad choice since we arrived at Harbor Sushi only to find it is closed on Wednesdays.  We sure were set on that "bitchin' roll," but decided to stay and order from the Harbor View Grill instead.   Judi, Donna and I grabbed a table looking out onto the beautiful evening (sunny, blue skies, calm water, people working on their boats, seals swimming by) and had such a great time just talking and laughing and unwinding from all the stress.   At some point, Donna mentioned sitting at my desk at work and noticing a quote on my bulletin board, "why do we kill people to teach people that killing people is wrong?"  We were discussing parents hitting kids to teach kids not to hit each other,  or parents hitting kids while they are crying, saying, "Okay, I will give you something to cry ABOUT!"    None of that ever made any sense to me.   

After our nice evening,  imagine how weird it was when I came home to find an email from the Alaska ACLU stating that the AK Legislature is considering implementation of the death penalty in our state.    What in the world could they be thinking?  In these times when officials in one state after another admit the folly of applying the death penalty, more and more individuals are being released after DNA evidence clears them, and increasing numbers of prosecutors and police chiefs are speaking out about the many issues associated with this ultimate form of punishment, Alaska wants to go the other way?   I worked on death penalty cases in Texas for a few years before moving here (yes, Texas, the death penalty capitol of the US) and, although it put me out of a job when I relocated, I was happy that Alaska did not use such a horrifying sentence.    There are many arguments against the death penalty:  that it is applied unevenly and unfairly, that individuals are convicted because of ineffective representation, mistakes and outright lies, that it has never been shown to be a deterrent, and that keeping someone on death row (including the costs of appeals) costs a whole lot more than life in prison.   Most civilized societies have done away with the death penalty.  We are left in the company of countries like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, China, North Korea and Saudi Arabia, which most of us would agree do not have the best records on human rights.    Alaska has been on the right side of this equation and I hope that our Legislature will not send us back to the Dark Ages.   I emailed Bryce Edgmon, my district Representative, and I was pleased to get an email back stating that he is opposed to the proposed bill.   Thanks, Bryce!   For the rest of you Alaskans, please educate yourself about the issue.  Sometimes people tend to have opinions based on emotion rather than facts, so it's good to do some research.  For more facts, see the Death Penalty Information Center link on the right side of my blog.   Let your Representative know that we don't want Alaska to start executing people.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Flowers and Flab

We have flowers on our minds.   Leftover bulbs are waiting to be planted and we have some Wyoming wildflower seeds my mom sent. Rich also needs to plant a new crop of herbs or tomatoes in his aerogarden.  I have never had much of a green thumb but we've actually done pretty well with keeping green plants alive in our house and growing some flowers in the spring and summer.   These are from two years ago--I was so thrilled to see their vibrant colors after a long winter.

After Rich's long day yesterday, he actually took off work today, we both slept in this morning and then went out to breakfast at Amelia's.   We also stopped by the Community Center to sign up for the Unalaska Biggest Winner Challenge.   This is going to be a lot of fun and will help us to stay on track to a healthier lifestyle.   We weighed in and picked up our materials from Alena, who was having a great time signing people up.  I hear that 41 people had enrolled  by the end of the afternoon--what a fantastic response!  For more info, look at or at Alena's blog,   If you are local, I think you can still sign up by contacting Alena or Char at 581-2742.  Rich and I are so inconsistent in our "healthiness." We will go for months on end eating such healthy  meals at home, rarely eating out, and working out regularly at the gym.  We are usually thrown off by going on vacation and even though we swear we will use moderation while we are traveling, we end up eating lots of wonderful (calorie laden) food, insisting on dessert with every meal (we have to TRY it, right?!) and never removing our work-out clothes from the suitcase.  We do try to walk a lot when we are on vacation, but that's about it. Then we get back home, look at our bellies with disgust and promise ourselves we will go RIGHT back to the gym.  For some reason, it is just so hard to get back into the habit again and we find the weeks flying by.   This is the most I have ever weighed except when I was pregnant with my girls!    (I used to blame any extra pounds on "the three kid spread," but how many years can I claim that when the youngest is now 26? LOL) However, it's not just about the weight but about having strong bones and good muscle tone and strength and flexibility as I get older.   To keep myself honest and motivated, I have put out a 20 pound challenge to the other folks out there who need to get rid of some belly flab and get in shape!   Who wants to join me?

I'm trying to read my book club book, The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig, but I am finding it a little tedious and actually kinda boring.   Anyone else have an opinion about it?  Since I am falling behind on my 100 book challenge, I hate to waste my time on something I'm not that interested in.  :)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

How I spent my Valentine's Day

Driving across the bridge

I went with my friend Judi to record for Story Corps.   She wanted to preserve some stories about her father and I got to have a conversation with her.  It was neat to hear about her dad and some of her memories.

Sharon, Judi and Kristine after doing Judi's story.

Then I stopped by the hotel to see my hard working husband who is prepping for the special Valentine's dinner tonight.

Click on the photos of the menus if you can't quite see the print.    I know it will be a delicious treat for those who attend.   Unfortunately, when the chef is working, his wife doesn't get to go out to dinner with him.    :(

Creme Brulee--my favorite!

Despite my whining, I am really having a good day just doing my thing and trying to get my house in order.   Funny how working part time has not helped me to stay on top of things any better.  I can always find something more interesting to do than dusting and sweeping, imagine that.     :)   

Rich bought me some of Sharon's fabulous chocolates last night so I am thinking about having one or two or three in a little while.   Mmmmm, mmmmm, good!    Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Roundup

Chocolate Extravaganza at the Museum of the Aleutians tonight.  We are so miserably full but it was well worth it.   :)    Here are some of Sharon's fabulous treats.

Kristine, Jane and Sharon 
More goodies

Bailey, not wanting to have her picture taken

A nice crowd inside the Museum

What a challenge to try everything!

The Museum is exhibiting Karel Machalek's amazing metalworks.  Rich and I both loved all of his unique sculptures.

It's been a full day.    In recognition of "Random Acts of Kindness Week,"  my coworkers and I distributed Hershey bars to unsuspecting folks around town.   On each candy bar, we taped a note that said, "It's Random Acts of Kindness Week!  Do something nice for someone--pass it on!"    It was great fun to see the smiles on people's faces when they read the note and realized what we were up to.

Tonight, Rich and I went to the Chocolate Extravaganza at the Museum.  As you can see from the photos, there was way too much chocolate and not enough tummy space.   We didn't get enough pictures to capture the full measure of all the scrumptious offerings, but you get the idea.  

On another note, I gave my notice at work today and am really excited that I will soon be starting a new job as the Development Director for Unalaska Community Broadcasting!   It's a step in a different direction for me, after being a social worker in various settings for all of my professional life.    I really can't wait to jump in!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Happy First Birthday, Elle!

Our sweet little granddaughter Elle Marie Durham turns 1 year old today.  It is hard to believe that a whole year has gone by since her arrival.  I remember so well receiving a phone call from Sarah telling me that she was being admitted to the hospital.  Elle was a little early so we weren't quite expecting the call yet.   I ran to the airport, only to be told that all the planes were full after we'd had some cancellations and lots of people had been held over on standby.   What a helpless feeling!  Luckily, the kindhearted folks at Pen Air took pity on me after I stood there with tears in my eyes begging for a flight!  Whether they are supposed to do it or not, I feel pretty sure they bumped me to the top of the standby list and I was finally able to get out at 4 PM.    Elle was born while I was in the air somewhere on my way to Dallas, but I was able to see her when she was less than a day old.

The proud parents after bringing Elle home.

We were lucky enough to be able to meet up with Sarah, Miles and Elle in Colorado in August.   She had grown so much!

A cute family photo taken by Uncle David in the fall.

Elle with her cousins Aidan and Ally on our trip to Sedona in December.

What a big girl, learning to walk!  

Happy Birthday, Elle!  We wish we could have been there for your party and send lots of love your way.

AND  don't forget Random Acts of Kindness just because I did another post!  Notice I mentioned the folks at Pen Air doing something VERY nice for me!    

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pass it on!

What a beautiful moon tonight.

It's Random Acts of Kindness Week.   Although it would be great if every day was full of people being kind to one another, sometimes we need a little reminder and a little bit of an organized effort to get us going.   And it's so much fun!   It doesn't cost any money, just a little bit of time and energy to notice what's going on around you.   Write a note, let someone go ahead of you in line,  offer to babysit, help a coworker before she asks, clean up your environment, wash the dishes, donate some books to the library, give a smile or a hug or an encouraging word, volunteer for a cause.  If you have a little money to spend, make a donation, pay for somebody's lunch or groceries or send an anonymous gift.    Just do something nice without expecting anything in return and see how you feel.    If you need more ideas, go to    And spread the word!

Here's the contest part:  Write me a comment describing your act of kindness and why you chose to do what you did.   If you are too shy to write a comment or you think it's too much like bragging, send me an email instead and no one else will have to see it.    :)  (On the other hand, if people see it, maybe they will be inspired).    I will randomly draw a name out of all submissions (comments and emails) on Sunday, Feb. 15th  for a new Unalaska Community Broadcasting sweatshirt.  Get out there and make the world a kinder place!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Unalaska Community Broadcasting's Annual Fundraising Auction

Ray and Rich make pizzas for the auction volunteers' dinner.   Mmmm, mmmm, good!

It was a beautiful evening and the sun was just starting to set as I drove across to "the other side" to work at the auction.   I decided to try a quick couple of shots out the windshield.  

Here's Rhonda hard at work entering winning bids into the computer.   We got so busy that I failed to get any photos during the auction itself.   Ooops!   

Working the phones

Breaking down at the end of the night

Our local TV and radio station's big fundraising auction was held Thursday through Saturday nights.  While staff and volunteers were scurrying around to make sure that the event came off without too many glitches, local folks were able to sit in the comfort and warmth of their own living rooms while calling in bids on the many great items up for sale.   Donations of auction items run the gamut from the silly (a toilet paper roll with a radio in it) to the beautiful (a homemade quilt by my friend Judi) to the adventurous (a sightseeing flight on the Pen Air Goose) to local culture (a mini Bentwood visor or an island tour).  Not to mention many hoodies, sweatshirts, tshirts and caps depicting the logos of local businesses, lots of local services, and of course, many fabulous dining possibilities.  I had the opportunity to do a little bit of everything from answering phones to being an on air host with Judi to helping Rhonda keep track of the different batches of items, entering data, and calling people to let them know that they WON (the most fun job of all).   

Rich and the hotel donated food for the volunteers--he made a variety of gourmet sandwiches one night and pizza last night.   I can always call on him to support my many activities and appreciate that very much.     And, of course, the food always gets rave reviews.  More than one person told me that they had no idea how he could make sandwiches taste that good.  :)

Looks like we had another successful auction and membership drive and had a lot of fun at the same time.   If you would like to become a member of Unalaska Community Broadcasting, go to the website at and sign up.  For anyone who pledges $125, your name will be entered into a drawing for a round trip Alaska Air ticket from Unalaska to Anchorage or Seattle. Memberships must be purchased by this coming Wednesday.  I believe we are drawing the winner's name on the air on Flash Unalaska at 8 PM Wed.    You also get a very cool UCB sweatshirt.   See the website or call 581-1888 for more details.  Support your local radio and TV!

Friday, February 6, 2009


We meet the most interesting people when we travel.  Whether it's taxi cab wisdom from New York City to Victoria to Vegas or random people we are thrown into a room with, or seatmates on a plane, I just love the conversations and experiences we find ourselves in.  Sometimes it's just those weird "coincidences" that leave me smiling, like the time I struck up a conversation with a woman on a flight to Anchorage, discovering that the newborn baby in her arms was named Elle as I was traveling home from visiting my new granddaughter in Texas--named Elle. We had to double check with each other and spell their names to make sure.  To add to the fun, the woman's older daughter was named Sarah and my daughter, mom of Elle, is also named Sarah. We just shook our heads and laughed and proceeded to talk about babies.  

At a Halifax restaurant, we chatted with a very nice couple from North Jersey and learned that the woman works for Conan O'Brien. We have an open invitation to contact her for tickets next time we go to NYC.  Rich laughingly told her, "Don't make that offer unless you mean it, because Jane will definitely get in touch with you!"   (They are in my address book!)   On another plane, I sat with a couple who run a peace center in Assisi, Italy.  I was so excited!   "Oh, I am such a peacenik myself!" I exclaimed while they looked at me like I was a little off-kilter.   :)    (Yes, I have their contact information as well.)   Wouldn't it be amazing to go on a retreat in Italy?!   One day!

I admit it, I can be a talker on planes, under the right circumstances.   I promise I am not one of those who can't get the message that you really would prefer to sleep or read or watch a movie or do anything except talk to me.  I DO get it if you send out those signals! But if you are friendly and don't mind chatting, I am usually up for it.  Such was the case out of Denver last summer, where our seatmate was a woman named Anne who had been to the Democratic Convention filming for a movie called "Papers."    This is the story of undocumented teens who were born elsewhere but have been raised in the US.  They don't remember any other place; they consider this country their home.   However, when they turn 18, they suddenly become "illegal immigrants" who cannot go to college or get a job, sometimes cannot even get a driver's license.  Imagine how scary and confusing this must be after living in the US your whole life, maybe not even being familiar with the country from which your parents came. It is reported that 65,000 undocumented students graduate from US high schools each year. "Papers" takes a look at some of these young people and the struggles that they face as they try to figure out where they fit into our society and what the future holds for them.   Of course, immigration reform is a hot topic these days and it's a complicated one, but this is one way to put a human face on the issue and to realize that it is not so easily addressed by "rounding people up and deporting them."  The film is not yet complete but check out the website at for more information.    If you feel so inclined, you can make a donation to support the work of these filmmakers.  We invited Anne to come to Unalaska for her next project.   :)

Then there was a kid named Ryan who served us at the In-n-Out Burger in Fresno, California.   I refer to this encounter as "Customer Service 101."   He could have been in high school, maybe college, I'm not sure, but the point is that this was a young guy who could have written the book on customer service.   He greeted us with a big smile, he offered his assistance, he joked with me when I couldn't figure out what to order, he genuinely seemed to like working with the public and interacting with people.  He was efficient, but kind and friendly. Not only did he treat us this way, but I sat and watched him continue in the same manner with every single person in line after us.   Whether the customer was rushing, harried, rude, tending to fussy children, teenagers with attitude, old folks who couldn't hear and took forever, he was smiling, friendly, helpful and encouraging.   I swear, everyone left his line happy.  Rich wanted to offer him a job on the spot!   Honestly, I couldn't stop staring at him.   As we left, I walked over to get his name and to tell him how much we admired his attitude on the job.  He looked surprised, said "thanks" and then grinned that great grin again.   When we got home, we wrote to In-n-Out Burger to let them know what a gem of an employee they have. I don't know if they have a fabulous training program or he's just a natural, but here's to Ryan....I think his future is very bright.  We could all take a lesson from him.

Sometimes we go through our days with our heads down and our minds closed and our hearts hardened by all the negative experiences that have come our way.  We think that no one understands what we have been through or that no one else has ever felt the way we feel. We look for confirmation that the world is a mean and unforgiving place.   We don't take the time to say hello or to smile, to find out what we have in common, to give someone a little bit of encouragement, to make an invitation, to share an idea, to spread the word about something important, to go the extra mile at work.  I gripe and complain as much as the next person, maybe more (ask Rich!)   Then there are days when we connect in a way that helps us to realize that everything we say and do has an impact somewhere along the line.    I see that as a comforting thing, but also a heavy responsibility.  What do I want my impact to be?   :)

Monday, February 2, 2009

We Don't Need a Groundhog to Tell us Winter is Here for Awhile

Icecapades, bird-style

I thought I knew what this seagull had found for dinner. What's your guess?

Storm front

                  After watching the snow and wind come down all day, it was time to head home and ride out today's storm amid comfortable surroundings. Standing in the doorway I took some photos of the bay and the birds who are are now sitting on the water instead of floating on it. Probably wondering why they didn't continue on down to Canada last October. Too late now. Some seagulls flew right in front of me and I got a few snapshots of them. Later, I was amazed at what I saw in this one's beak. Tell me what you see.
                 Dinner tonight was pork tenderloin with an orange-maple mustard glaze, cumin-lime basmati rice and zucchini/ red pepper/tomato sauté.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Springsteen Snowy Sunday

I'm not too much into football but I had to keep an eye on the game to see the half-time show.   Bruce and the E Street Band looked like they were having a great time...really reminded me of being at one of their concerts, which are about the best I've ever seen (okay, tied with my other favorite band, U2).   They always put on such high energy, big time fun rock and roll shows, 3 or more hours till you're totally worn out.  I was hoping they might be playing in Jersey or Philly when we go back in June, but no, they are going to be in Europe.  I can't believe Bruce does not consult me about his touring schedule.  :)   Yes, most of my family are big Springsteen fans--it's in our New Jersey genes.  A few years ago, there was an email circulating called "You know you are from South Jersey if..." -- one of the signs was "at least three people in your family still love Bruce Springsteen and one of them is your mother."   Sarah called me to make sure I was watching the half time show, just to prove that point.   

Yesterday Rich and I  went to the Burma Road Chapel to meet with Sharon and Kristine to record my Story Corps conversation.   Rich asked me some questions and I mostly just talked his ears off for 40 minutes.  It was so easy (at least for a talker!)   In fact, I talked way too much about my early life and had to hurry up and condense the last 20 years into a few final minutes. We should have planned better!   

I am trying to convince Rich to go back and record his story next. This is a really cool project that ties in with all of the things we've been discussing about culture and history and passing down family tales.   You can talk about anything you want to talk about, your conversation is preserved in local archives and in the state of AK and in the Library of Congress.   It's weird to think that our great-great grandchildren could access the recording and actually hear our voices many years down the road (unless technology changes too much and CDs are no longer viable!) All you local folks need to contact Sharon or Kristine and make an appointment--call 359-8016!  If you need someone to converse with, I am really nosy and would love to volunteer to go with you.   :)  Check out Sharon's blog on the right of this page, Unalaska From My Point of View, for more information.

We had another snowy day and I was just as happy to stay in the house and get a few things done here while Rich worked an extra long day with Brunch and Super Bowl party food to get out.   I can't believe it's already February (and almost Monday).